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What’s up with IT certifications?

Technology and IT certifications are a frequently discussed topic in the realm of tech onboarding.

On one side of the argument, you have those who believe IT certifications aren't a great differentiator in an industry that evolves at a rate faster than the highest setting in video game franchise SimCity (jaguar). Dice contributor David Bolton asserted there are some technologies that certainly don't change that often, but a certification still does not provide any proficiencies that you couldn't learn on your own – for cheaper to boot. The most important point, however, is that some jobs don't demand their IT pros have certifications. While correct, that there are many other companies that do want to see these third-party indications of skills and talents.

"65% of organizations use IT certificates to distinguish between similar job candidates."

In fact, it seems that more hiring managers are looking for certifications than you might think. According to CompTIA data cited by CIO, 65 percent of organizations use cybercertificates to distinguish between two job candidates with similar experience and resumes, while 72 perfect of surveyed companies said they demand IT certifications if you apply for a specific position.

Perhaps the debate will always continue. After all, IT certifications are not absolutely necessary – at least right now.

However, that doesn't mean they are worthless. The opposite is true. Tech-specific certificates from accredited and well-known institutes and organizations can help you earn more.

A matter of dollars and cents
ZDNet highlighted a Foote Partners report that discovered IT certification ownership equates to bigger paychecks. According to the source, application developers with certifications in programming languages are likely to earn 0.9 percent more than those without accreditation, while networking and communications pros who become certified in their trade will make 1.2 percent more than individuals lacking that training. On the higher end, system administration and engineering certifications could help raise your salary by 2.5 percent.

In regard to dollars, it just makes sense to seek out IT certifications, especially if you're looking for employment in the one of these three sectors: cybersecurity, networking or business. According to John Hales, software-defined networking, VMware and SoftLayer instructor at Global Knowledge, one of his employer's surveys found that those few areas of corporate IT will pay you more if you are certified in affiliated skills. Specifically, Hales listed roles such as information security manager, information systems auditor, project manager, systems engineer and ScrumMaster as the highest-paying positions where certifications are required.

IT certifications often lead to higher pay.IT certifications often lead to higher pay.

The type of certification is up to you
Most interestingly about Global Knowledge's data, many of the IT certifications that pay the big bucks are closely affiliated with propriety tech solutions. For example, being certified in Cisco routing and switching, Citrix virtualization, Microsoft systems engineering, VMware data center virtualization, Amazon Web Services solutions architecture and Red Hat systems administration will earn you a large salary – ranging from approximately $90,000 to around $120,000 per year.

On the other side of the table, there are certifications in general skills groups that are just as valuable as vendor-specific ones. Project management, for instance, is a highly prized certificate, and if you're looking for a job in IT helpdesk support, CompTIA A+, a certification that demonstrates an understanding of tech solutions from all types of vendors, is essential to getting paid a premium.

Simply put, you will want to seek out a certification that best aligns with your interests and job opportunities.

"List IT certifications in a specific section of your resume."

Explaining your experience
Unfortunately, getting an IT certification might be the easiest part of the process for you, as it all comes down to demonstrating these learned proficiencies in both written and verbal form – sometimes you might even be tested in person.

Starting with the resume, you should list certifications in a specific section of your resume, fully spelling out and dating the month and year that you were accredited, as well as adding the abbreviation in hopes of that sticking out at a quick glance. List them in reverse chronological order, as this will put the most relevant and freshest skills at the top, making them easily seen. Make sure that you include more than just the title of the certification, detailing exactly what you learned and aligning those talents and proficiencies with keywords from the initial job posting.

In person, keep it simple and brief when it comes to listing and explaining your certifications. If you're in front of a hiring manager, don't use abbreviations since that will seem like a foreign language. As a note, if you're currently taking courses for a certification, tell them why you chose that area of expertise.

If it comes down to a test, just stick with what you know, but in that regard, don't forget to brush up the day before an interview.

Whatever side of the IT certification argument you stand on, don't ever discount the value of third-party accreditation in the tech sector. Technology is constantly evolving, and you must grow alongside it.

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